HomeBlog How to Use Metrics to Drive Alignment and Accountability

How to Use Metrics to Drive Alignment and Accountability

July 18, 2017 | By Jay Gaines

  • B-to-b sales, marketing and product leaders struggle to create focus across teams and functions, and gain and maintain insight into progress toward key goals
  • Alignment and accountability come from identifying the correct metrics that provide leaders with the insight they need
  • Leaders are operating in a fog of metrics;  a simple and structured approach for selecting metrics that matter is crucial

In our work with sales, marketing and product leaders, they frequently share that they are struggling to drive focus across functions, teams and people in complex initiatives and ongoing processes. They also struggle to gain and maintain visibility into progress toward critical goals. The combination of these two challenges results in slower progress toward goals, and often complete failure. 

A primary source of these challenges is that leaders are operating in a fog of metrics. Let’s face it – now everything is measurable, and identifying which metrics matter most is extremely difficult. Ultimately, what leaders need to achieve goals faster and more consistently is a combination of alignment and accountability at all levels in the organization that is supported and enabled by the right data and metrics.

Effective alignment means that down to the individual team members across sales, marketing and product, everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and how their actions link directly to the goals of their team, function and business.

Accountability must also be required down to the team-member level; it means that people know what to do to impact goals, but it also means understanding how their work, performance and contribution toward goals will be monitored and measured with specific metrics.

Of course, the value of being aligned and accountable is that it creates clarity and focus across people, teams and functions – which is foundational to building a high-performing revenue engine that fuels growth.

Selecting the right metrics to drive alignment and accountability starts with creating structure for your organization’s metrics and obtaining perspective. Structure comes from defining clear and specific metrics classes. At SiriusDecisions we recommend the following classes:

  • Activity. The counts of actions taken (e.g. emails sent, calls placed).
  • Output. Direct results of actions (e.g. inquiries, demo requests).
  • Impact. Effects against business goals (e.g. revenue, market share).
  • Readiness. Preparedness to perform (e.g. database size, skills).

Perspective is essential to selecting the right metrics, setting correct goals and understanding performance, but unfortunately, it’s a gap for many organizations.  In business – just as in life – perspective is hard to achieve and it’s most often obtained in hindsight.

The biggest problem is that without perspective, the utility of data and metrics is diminished because it’s impossible to know what good looks like. With just the organization’s own metrics you can observe improvement, but you can’t tell if you are truly good, or just less bad. While being less bad is an admirable aspiration, I think most organizations want to do better than that.

To create perspective, you must have relevant and accurate external data that validates goals and milestones and provides important context for understanding performance.

When I say relevant external data, that can mean any number of things. For many, it would mean a tightly defined peer set of companies that are very similar, but that’s not all. For example, when doing long-term strategic planning, you may want data from companies that are 30 percent to 50 percent larger so you can anticipate changes as you scale.

With structure and perspective explained, let’s look at how to cut through that fog of metrics to select the correct metrics. Like so much of what we do at SiriusDecisions, the goal here is to simplify, clarify and create structure for the process and criteria for identifying and using the correct metrics to drive progress, alignment and accountability.

As we all know, alignment and accountability always start with clearly defined and well-communicated goals; without them, you’re destined to be unfocused and rudderless. Of course, goals are key business objectives, including things like financial objectives, or productivity and efficiency gains. It’s important to understand that primary business goals are often shared across functions and should be the catalyst for cascading sets of KPIs that extend to functions, teams and team members that bind everyone to the goals.

Next are milestones. These are agreed-upon points of progress required to achieve goals. Milestones are critical because they enable leaders to monitor progress toward goals, and ultimately define the timeline for goal achievement. Also, teams and team members can be made accountable for hitting milestones, and each milestone has an associated set of metrics for tracking progress.

Then we have actions, which are simply the activities required to achieve milestones and goals. Of course, actions must be defined, assigned and linked to each milestone in support of goals.

Extending across the three simple elements above is scope; this reflects level of involvement and accountability at the organization, function, team and team member level.

And finally, we have metrics – which, of course, are specific and observable measures of progress, outcomes and achievement. Remember, metrics become far more useful and valuable when perspective is built into metric selection and performance evaluation.

As you can see, what you end up with is a simple and clear structure for selecting and using metrics to drive alignment and accountability linking every individual in the organization to business goals.

Jay Gaines

Jay Gaines is Chief Marketing Officer and Research Fellow at SiriusDecisions. His experience includes team building and leadership, marketing strategy and planning, marketing budget and operations management, demand creation, sales and marketing alignment, business development, product development and management, interactive marketing/advertising, inbound marketing and social media. Follow Jay on Twitter @izjay.

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